How to ease the back to school transition for kids with ASD
Summer can provide a welcome break from the demands of the school year and a chance to create special memories of family vacations and adventures with friends, which is why preparations for the new school year may seem bittersweet as September draws near. Transitioning back into school routines can be extra challenging for students with ASD, as the change in schedule and the variety of unknown details associated with back to school can cause a mix of anxiety and stress. Here are a few ways to help ease the transition and prepare for the new school year:
Go for a visit
Reach out to a teacher, administrator or even a member of the office staff and ask if you can stop by for a visit in the days before school starts. Even if your child is going to the same school he attended last year, it is helpful to see where his classroom will be in the new school year. Explore how he will get to and from his class, the bathroom, cafeteria and other key areas of the school.
During your visit, ask for a daily schedule, practice using locker combinations, and, if possible, set up a meet and greet with your child’s teacher. You may also consider taking pictures while your there so your child can look at them at a later date or use them in a social story.
Start your school routine early
Just as with jet lag from traveling, it can take a few days to acclimate to the school schedule of going to bed and waking up early. Make this adjustment easier by replicating the school routine a few days or weeks before the start of school – go to bed early, wake up early, plan to have a snack and lunch at the same time as at school.
Open the lines of communication
Consider creating a communication notebook that your child takes to school daily. You can begin this notebook with personal information about your child, such as likes/dislikes, educational and behavioral strengths and weaknesses, interests, etc. It should be a two-way communication tool in which you can note sleep disruptions, dietary restrictions, mood observations or anything else that may be helpful for the teacher to connect with your child. This notebook can also contain your email address and phone number as a quick reference for more time sensitive or discrete conversations.
Wear comfy clothes
New clothes are a common purchase for back to school, but if you do have new clothes make sure you break them in ahead of time. A scratchy shirt tag, rigid jeans or stiff shoes can be uncomfortable for anyone, but for a child with sensory issues it can be detrimental to their day and impair their learning abilities. Let your kids wear those back to school clothes a few times before the first day of school so they can be worn in a little and any clothing related distractions can be identified.<
It’s easy to dwell on negative experiences FROM the past and create unnecessary concern, but the power of positivity can make all the difference. Back to school brings along many changes, but as a parent, you set the tone. Stay optimistic and express your excitement for the new school year and your positive outlook might just rub off on your kids.